Crowded airports. Long security lines. Three-ounce bottles of liquids and gels. Airline fees. Travelers have faced complications at the airport for several years, but now they face another dilemma: the choice between full-body scans or enhanced pat downs by Transportation Security Administration agents.
Last month, TSA announced that it has changed its pat-down procedures. Now, a manual search involves an agent running the front of his or her hand up the inside of a passenger's leg.
Not surprisingly, not everyone is pleased with the idea of a high-tech full-body image or an invasive pat down.
"This is getting out of hand," said Jonathan, a reader from Washington, D.C. "I see the ploy. Get people afraid of invasive searches and you get everyone to walk through scanners. I personally will refuse every time. One of our only liberties left is who can see our nakedness. We wear clothes for a reason."
Rodger Padgett of Holmdel, N.J., agrees: "This is getting ridiculous ... Our privacy is being violated by both the full body scans and these more personal pat downs. Get your hands off my ...".
Some readers recognize the need for security measures, but wonder if the feds are putting resources in the proper place.
"I don't much care what method they use," said one reader who didn't supply a name. "However, it makes no sense whatsoever to do such intensive searches on U.S. citizens traveling within the U.S. while permitting dozens of persons a day to enter the U.S. without any screening or search whatsoever. A terrorist could enter the U.S. from Mexico. Instead of a small box cutter, they could bring in a surface-to-air missile."
And what will this mean for flight crews trying to make it to their gate on time?
"Wow! As a flight crew member this is going to make us really late to the aircraft which in turn will make the passengers even more pleasant than they usually are," said M. from Pennsylvania. "Can't wait! And yes, passengers, we are put through the same thing you are."
Here are more stories and thoughts from readers weighing in about airport security searches:
"I fly weekly and this is very violating! I have a pacemaker and I can't go through the scanners, so I have to subject myself to the "rub-downs" regularly. I feel like I'm being punished for not being able to go through these scanners."
—James, Burbank, CA
"I recently flew from New York's JFK to San Diego and back. This was durring the cargo shipping bomb scare. I have to say I had NO unusual or overly intrusive security issues on either leg of my trip. It seems people have very short memories. There is a demand for security, but no one wants to be inconvenienced. Maybe we can't have it both ways."
The full body scan is quick and easy, making the lines move much faster. For those of us with artificial joints the pat downs are routine. Only people with something to hide would be against the added protection these methods provide to travelers.
—Parker, Houston TX
"I think this whole problem of "rub downs" would go away if the airports had handsome young guys checking the women and attractive young girls checking the guys. I know damn well the guys wouldn't be complaining. (On a more serious note, when you go into a hospital all kinds of invasive procedures are performed on you. You don't complain because it's a matter of life or death. Well, what do you think THIS IS?"
— Cristina, Prospect, PA
"I was recently subjected to not only a full body scan but also a pat down while passing through airport security. I honestly thought the TSA agent was joking when he described the position i needed to stand in for the scan. He chuckled and made some comment about the fact that nobody would be able to see the images aside from other TSA agents. This made me extremely uncomfortable as the agent who was running the scan was male, and I am a female. At no time leading up to the scan was i aware i could refuse the scan. After the scan, i was passed to a female agent who felt me up, as though i could hide something underneath my thin t-shirt and jeans that did not get picked up by the scan. She made a comment about me wearing an underwire bra. It was humiliating!"
— Nicole, Omaha, Neb.
"One time going through security, I requested a female TSA agent perform the pat down (I am male). I told him I was uncomfortable with a male doing the pat down, and preferred a female. That employee of TSA told me that it is not up to me which gender pats me down... and that the TSA union has said that females can't be required to pat down males. I'm sorry TSA, but it is MY body, and if I want a specific gender to pat ME down, it is up to ME. I am the customer being inconvenienced."
— Rob, Fargo, N.D.
"Yes I was placed in a very uncomfortable position. I was wearing an under-wire bra that caused the alarm to go off when I walked through security and a female TSA agent ran her hands all over me even after she was aware of the under-wire bra. This was done in full view of other passengers in line behind me and passengers walking through the terminal."
— Shirley, Dallas
"I have a pacemaker. The Security Person who patted me down told me that beginning on the 28th of October, pat downs would include searching inside of the traveler's clothing. He didn't go into detail but intimated that full body searches will be done in the future to eliminate any chance of smuggling a bomb on board a plane. This happened on October 8th."
— Name withheld
"I recently (went) through the full body scanner followed by a full body search. What is the point of the scanner if it is followed up with the full body search? Is this an indication the scanner doesn't work as well as we are told? What could possibly be left to see?"
— Lori Webb, St. Augustine, Fla.
"The single most dangerous issue facing this country is TSA and Homeland Security. Our freedoms have eroded to the point of getting patted down in order to fly??!! Give me a break! It's time to get this entire process under control. Potential terrorists and TSA are embroiled in a kind of arms race. This could go on forever with unlimited costs. The terrorists have won. We have failed to realize that the mindset of airline passengers has changed. If somebody today tries to hijack or blow up an airplane, the other passengers will not hesitate to take action to protect themselves. Unfortunately, we've stripped them of that ability. Lets regain some common sense and get rid of Homeland Security and TSA."
— John Williams, Washington, DC
"Since my hip replacement I always get a pat down. My Hip replacement ID card does not eliminate the requirement. Having lived in Northern Ireland in the 80's and having flown in and out once or twice a week I am very familiar with pat downs. The marked difference is the professionalism over there versus the demeaning manner most often carried out here. During the time of the "Troubles" there never was an aircraft incident. The security process while not as sophisticated as today, required all of the people entering the airport to be patted down and all parcels and luggage to be x-rayed. Further, only one carry-on was allowed and that was x-rayed and hand searched. The passenger was again patted down before being allowed to the gate. If the passenger left the gate area his luggage was removed from the airplane. All of the airports had a high fence with night time lighting surrounding the perimeter. Additionally, there was a checkpoint that one had to clear to reach the airport. Though some of this may seem excessive by our standards, the flow time was rather quick and I never heard any disparaging remarks being made by any of the passengers. By the way, has there ever been an alert level below "orange" since 9/11? I don't think so!"
— Lewis Sotnick, North Granby, Conn.
"I use a wheelchair because I do not go through the metal detector, I have always had the the enhanced pat down and swabbing procedures. I've found that 100% of the time, the TSA screeners are completely professional and make the screening as efficient as possible. I am not uncomfortable having the pat down nor would I mind the full body scan as it is the price we all pay for tight security. Every time I see someone undergoing additional screening, I thank the TSA for doing their jobs to make air travel safe."
— Mary, Concord, N.H.
"I am more than happy to receive either type of careful screen. It is a small price that I am happy to pay for enhanced security. I'm sure that the people who wish to harm us are counting on, and praying for, our resistance to protective defensive measures."
— Randal H. Parker, MD, Granada Hills, Calif.